Iran’s pioneer woman writer Simin Daneshvar dies at 90

Written on March 12, 2012 by Banafsheh Farhangmehr in Arts & Cultures & Societies

Prominent Iranian author and translator Simin Daneshvar, known as the first female novelist of contemporary Persian fiction, has died at the age of 90 in Tehran.

Daneshvar is best known for her 1969 socio-historical novel Savushun, also known as A Persian Requiem which recounts the story of a family living during the World War II occupation of Iran by the Allied Forces.

As her masterpiece and bestselling novel, the book received wide literary acclaim and has been translated into 17 languages so far.

For six decades, she was considered among the leading figures of the Iranian intelligentsia. With the 1969 publication of Suvashun, she was celebrated as modern Iran’s first female novelist, and her prose still is admired for its realism. Her life mirrored the history of Persian literature in the 20th century, encompassing its radical progressiveness, its nationalist zeal, and the continuous conflict between tradition and modernity. She represented that conflict in the most uncommon way — the daughter of an elite family, she married the hero of Iranian traditionalists: Jalal al-Ahmad, the son of a cleric.

Born in 1921 to a physician father and an artist mother in the southern city of Shiraz, Simin Daneshvar was one of the most educated women of her time. She attended a bilingual school in Shiraz and later studied Persian literature at the University of Tehran. Following her father’s death in 1941, she started to write for Radio Tehran under a pen name to support herself. Thus began a literary career that would ultimately span two continents. While still a student at the University of Tehran, she published her first collection of short stories — the first ever by an Iranian woman — at the age of 27. In 1949 she defended her doctoral thesis on the subject of beauty in Persian literature under the supervision of the acclaimed scholar Badiozzaman Forouzanfar.

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